The legal year, term dates and sitting days
The term dates for the legal year apply to sittings in the High Court and Court of Appeal only, and are fixed in accordance with the Practice Direction which supplements Part 39 of the Civil Procedure Rules.
Hilary: Wednesday 11 January to Wednesday 5 April 2023
Easter: Tuesday 18 April to Friday 26 May 2023
Trinity: Tuesday 6 June to Monday 31 July 2023
Michaelmas: Monday 2 October to Thursday 21 December 2023
Hilary: Thursday 11 January to Wednesday 27 March 2024
Easter: Tuesday 9 April to Friday 24 May 2024
Trinity: Tuesday 4 June to Wednesday 31 July 2024
Michaelmas: Tuesday 1 October to Friday 20 December 2024
Judicial sitting days
Court of Appeal Judges and High Court Judges are expected to devote themselves to judicial business throughout the legal year which usually amounts to somewhere in the region of 185-190 days.
Circuit Judges are expected to sit for a minimum of 210 days, although the expectation is for between 215-220 per year.
District Judges are expected to sit for a minimum of 215 days.
Judges also have out of court duties to perform such as reading case papers, writing judgments, and keeping up to date with new developments in the law.
Origins of the legal year
The service in Westminster Abbey dates back to 1897 when judges prayed for guidance at the start of the legal term. Judges, whose courts were held in Westminster Hall, left the city and walked to the abbey to take part in the service.
The ceremonies now are more or less as they have always been but, instead of the two mile walk from Temple Bar to Westminster Abbey, the judges now travel by car.
The 45-minute service, which starts at 11:30am, is conducted by the Dean of Westminster. It includes prayers, hymns, psalms and anthems; the Lord Chancellor reads a lesson.
Around 700 people are invited to attend the service and breakfast. These include judges, senior judicial officers, the Law Officers, King’s Counsel (KC), government ministers, lawyers, members of the European Court and other overseas judges and lawyers. Judges and KCs wear ceremonial dress.
Disruption of ceremonies
Although well-established traditions, both ceremonies were cancelled during the last century. In 1940 the service had to be cancelled due to bomb damage in Westminster Abbey; it was not held again until 1946.
In 1953 the ceremony took place in St Margaret’s Church because structures and decorations for the coronation in the abbey had not been removed.